Center for Cultural Leadership

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Must Christians be Crusaders?

Posted on June 17, 2017

  In the summer of 2011, the well-known evangelical campus ministry Campus Crusade announced it was planning to change its name to the strange abbreviation “Cru.”[1] The word “crusade” had negative connotations, particularly overseas. It was identified with the medieval Christian crusades against Islam. Apparently the word became a barrier to today’s campus evangelism. Similarly, when I attended Christian schools in the 60s and 70s, many of them chose as their team name “the Crusaders.” This in fact was the name of my own high school in northern Ohio.   Times have changed. Many people even in the United States believe that the Crusades were a great blot on Christian history. It’s true that they were far from perfect, and Christians committed atrocities. On…

Prayer and Sovereignty

Posted on May 16, 2017

  Pastor Sandlin – do you have a trove of quotes on prayer? You for quite a while were posting on prayer and it really affected me. A lot of great Bounds quotes.     I sometimes feel like we Purtianical Reformed in certain parts pray without expectation to justify a theological position. Where is there faith without expectation?   The questions are hard when one prays fervently for an outcome that does not happen. But i now believe prayer to be more powerful than I ever thought it was.         Dear –––––,   I’m so sorry this has taken so long to answer. Sharon and I have been out of town a lot lately.   The best quotes that I…

The Covert Agenda of Contemporary Pluralism

Posted on May 2, 2017

  God-glorifying Christianity sustains a collision course with contemporary pluralism. This pluralism says that you can believe what you want in your private life, but the public realm, including politics, is a lovely, rainbow-hued cornucopia of competing beliefs, none of which is especially important. The public realm is religiously neutral. Pluralism defined in this way is not only entirely false. It is also disingenuous. There are no neutral realms of life.[1] There are either covenant keepers or covenant breakers. There is either covenant-keeping private life and/or public life or covenant-breaking private life and/or public life. No individual, no family, no culture, no politics can be religiously neutral.[2]   Contemporary pluralism, child of secularism, is not religiously neutral. It is actively hostile to Biblical Christianity. It…

Miniaturizing the Gospel

Posted on April 24, 2017

An early evangelical ministry was the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International. By “full gospel” they meant the charismatic gifts. Whatever your view of those gifts, this ministry did get one thing right: the gospel is full, not partial. The full gospel means that the gospel is designed to touch and redeem every area of life — our minds and hearts, family, church, education, music, architecture, politics, technology, law, science, economics, and everything else.[1] Evangelicals or soterians? One problem is that too often evangelicals have been soterians, not really evangelicals.[2] That is, they have reduced the gospel to personal salvation, soteriology. So, when we hear “gospel,” we immediately think of people “getting saved” and little else. But in biblical terms, this simply isn’t the…

Biblical Anthropology: Neither Dualistic Nor Materialistic

Posted on April 17, 2017

  Dear ——-,   These are great questions, and I’m so glad you are studying these anthropological issues. They are not ivory tower topics but have serious implications for the real world.   Strictly speaking, the Bible advocates neither naturalism nor dualism. Much of the Christian church historically has been dualistic in that it has defined the human soul as an independent component in contrast to the body and/or the spirit. In some quarters today, there’s a strong push toward a renewed Christian dualism in reaction against our secular culture of naturalism, the idea that man is comprised simply of chemicals and electronic impulses. Obviously, that latter idea is atheistic and unbiblical. But Christian dualism as it is usually understood is not biblical either.…

Easter: Bodily Resurrection, Not Soul Immortality

Posted on April 15, 2017

And when they [the Greeks] heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked (Acts 17:32a)   In late November 2001, the Arts and Entertainment Television Network carried a special by popular rock singer Billy Joel. Among other inane comments, he said, “I believe that when people die, they go to live in the hearts of the people they love.”   This is a manifestly pagan idea; and it should not surprise us, because Billy Joel is a manifest pagan.   Unfortunately, it is only a somewhat secularized notion of a heresy too commonly held by many Christians today — that the “release” of death is the joy of a disembodied “spiritual” existence. The Greeks’ “Immortality” The ancient pagan Greeks were proponents of the inherent immortality of…

Easter Against the Gnostics

Posted on April 14, 2017

The earliest heresy afflicting Christianity was Gnosticism. The followers of our Lord, committed to the Bible, believed that God created a good world but that man’s sin had corrupted it, and yet God sent his Son in human flesh to die on the Cross for man’s sins and rise again to redeem man and all creation. We celebrate these latter momentous events this Holy Week. Gnosticism Yesterday The Gnostics had an entirely different worldview.[1] They believed that the Evil God of the Old Testament (the Demiurge), the God of law and cruelty and capriciousness, was countered by the good God of the New Testament, the God who sent Jesus Christ to deliver a fallen humanity from the Evil God and his evil world. Obviously,…

Holy Week: No Greater God than Jesus

Posted on April 12, 2017

To his disciple Philip who demanded that Jesus show him the Father, Jesus replied, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John. 14:9). We learn from the writer to the Hebrews that Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3, emphasis supplied).   To know Jesus is to know God.   A subtle subordinationism infects many Christians (subordination is the heresy that the Son is not equal in his being with the Father). In (rightly) affirming the Trinity, they seem to believe that there is some “Godness” deeper or more profound than Jesus Christ. They must “get behind” Jesus Christ to know God even better. We can learn only some things about God…

The Cultural Mandate, Not the Benedict Option

Posted on March 30, 2017

Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (an excerpt of which appeared in Christianity Today),[1] has launched the latest Facebook-Twitter-blog-web battle among culturally oriented Christians. The Benedict Option (Dreher abbreviates it: Ben Op) is a “strategic withdrawal” according to which many conservative Christians, aggressive culture warriors since the 70s, now retreat into tight-knit communities to bolster their faith during our time of nearly unprecedented cultural hostility. Dreher argues that this culture is presently so influential and pervasive in its anti-Christianity that to refuse to withdraw from it relegates our children and grandchildren to “assimilation.” Our cultural foes are so vast and influential, that we just can’t expect to hold out against them. We’ve lost the culture wars, and…

Multiculturalism, Not Immigration, Is the Problem

Posted on March 17, 2017

  The United States and the West don’t have an immigration problem; we have a multiculturalism problem. American openness to immigration has waxed and waned over its history, but immigration has never until recently eroded the fabric of our society, for the simple reason that to be an American was first of all a cultural fact, rooted in a basic Christian past. This doesn’t mean the U.S. was ever an explicitly Christian nation, but it was implicitly Christian in that it was founded on Christian principles rooted in generic conservative Protestantism.   In the 1960s, however, Libertarian Marxism (Marxism designed for the West, a systematic attack on Christian civilization, one which requires multiculturalism) began to erode the Christian inheritance within the U.S. Before that,…

The Failure of Secular Arguments for Marriage

Posted on February 23, 2017

While Christians welcome specific secular arguments for marriage that contribute to sound public policy, our civilization can’t eventually avoid a head-on clash between Christian sexual ethics and non-Christian sexual ethics as they play themselves out in our culture. The problem with secular arguments for sexual ethics (including arguments for “traditional” marriage [= marriage]) is that they spring from the same root as arguments for same-sex “marriage”: human autonomy. Able secular proponents of “traditional marriage” argue for “the common good” and “human flourishing” — only marriage gives us happy, well-balanced children; strong family bonds; and useful citizens. The problem is that many advocates of homosexuality (for example) see a society that discriminates against same-sex “marriage” as not a “common good,” and, even were they to…

Top 10 Movies of 2016

Posted on February 14, 2017

1. La La Land — old-fashioned musical, unabashedly heterosexual, grown-up, pitch-perfect in almost every way  2. Zootopia — mesmerizing, and oh those sloths manning the DMV  3. Hell or High Water — revisionist modern Western, gratifyingly slow-paced with exquisite character development  4. Eye in the Sky — uncharacteristically balanced treatment of modern warfare, and almost unbearably tense  5. Arrival — like all good sci-fi, the science and CGI are subordinate to the absorbing human drama  6. Rogue One — best Star Wars since Return of the Jedi 7. The Green Room — dark indie thriller with a menacing Patrick Stewart  8. Sully — totally straightforward biopic that wins via plot and Hanks 9. The Infiltrator — Bryan Cranston is one of the finest living actors,…

Social Justice Isn’t

Posted on February 4, 2017

  We hear a lot about social justice these days. The January 21, 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C. and Atlanta was billed as championing social justice. We even hear the expression “social justice Christians,” that is, Christians interested in social justice since, presumably, other Christians are not. Cru, the ministry once known as Campus Crusade for Christ, wants to interweave the Gospel and social justice. The Christian Reformed Church (CRC) even has its own Office of Social Justice. This shouldn’t surprise us, because the expression was invented in the first half of the 19th century by the Italian Roman Catholic priest Luigi Taparelli D’Azeglio.[1] “Social justice” began in the Christian church.[2] At that time it meant what we today term private associations (families,…

Christians, Expect Nothing Less Than Victory

Posted on January 28, 2017

Introduction to Victory   The Bible is festered with God’s promises. By one count, there are 7,487 promises by God to man in his Word.[1] Every section of the Bible contains God’s promises. Every book features God’s promises, directly or indirectly. If we got rid of God’s promises, we’d lose the Bible. We’d also lose the Christian Faith, which rests squarely on the promises of God. No promises, no salvation. Here I’ll follow just a single line of promises, the most prominent line. I’ll begin where God begins — in the book of Genesis. This is where we always should begin. We must learn to read our Bibles in the sequence that God wrote it — from beginning to end, and not simply jump…

A Very Different Kind of Populism

Posted on January 22, 2017

Both supporters and critics of President Donald Trump’s political philosophy, to the extent that he consciously embraces one, refer to it as populism and invoke the name of that early American populist, President Andrew Jackson, for a comparison. President Trump’s populism was evident in his inauguration address, and therefore it might be interesting to consider it in light of Andrew Jackson’s own March 4, 1829 inaugural address.   President Jackson immediately invoked the U.S. Constitution that he took his oath to withhold. He felt bound by the Constitution and consequently must work closely with Congress:   As the instrument of the Federal Constitution it will devolve on me for a stated period to execute the laws of the United States, to superintend their foreign and…

What Noah Can Teach Today’s Protestants

Posted on December 3, 2016

The biblical narrative of Noah doesn’t fit neatly into the contemporary paradigm of the Protestant Reformation. But understanding Noah will assist us in returning to a truly biblical and balanced reformation in church and culture.   Noah obeyed God comprehensively   Noah obeyed God to the letter. That’s the meaning of “he did all that God commanded him” (Gen. 6:22). The emphasis is on the comprehensiveness of his obedience. Faith is obedience, and faith issues in obedience. If we believe God, if we take God at his word, we obey, and we obey comprehensively. We aren’t cafeteria Christians. We don’t choose what to obey and what not to obey. Noah didn’t say, “I believe God, and I’ll build and ark for me and my…

But What Made America Great in the First Place?

Posted on November 30, 2016

  We just concluded a convulsive political season. It’s a relief to enter the peaceful Advent season. The politics of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ includes the One who carries the government on his shoulders (Is. 9:6). His are the politics of redemption, grace, and obedience. His goal is nothing less than worldwide dominion, and his politics, which is perpetuated not by the power of the sword but by the power of the sword of the Spirit, cannot fail.   Donald Trump’s winning campaign slogan was: “Let’s Make America Great Again.” It’s a fine slogan, but how can we make America great again if we don’t know what made it great in the first place? I know what made our country great: a reliance…

Skeptical Conservatism versus Sola Scriptura

Posted on November 21, 2016

One striking difference between our 18th and 19th century forebears and us is their repeated emphasis on prayer and our comparative de-emphasis of it. They prayed frequently and fervently. We pray infrequently and languidly. They called prayer meetings. We call staff meetings. They had revival and reformation. We have apathy and apostasy. A leading reason for these distinctions is that they were inclined to believe what God said about prayer. We are often less confident in God’s word when it comes to his promises about prayer. A blunter way to say this is: we commit the sin of unbelief.   God’s faithfulness in not answering prayer?   A Southern Baptist writer firmly committed to the Reformation truth of sola scriptura (the Bible alone) recently…

The Cosmic War Zone

Posted on October 21, 2016

  The spiritual electromagnetic spectrum   Detecting the intersection of the seen and unseen worlds is much like considering the electromagnetic spectrum.[1] There’re all sorts of waves surrounding us, though we can see only a portion of that spectrum. But the fact that we can’t see microwaves and gamma rays, doesn’t mean they’re not there. The problem is not with the reality. The problem is that our eyesight is limited. The biblical writers are “predisposed to supernaturalism.”[2] We, by contrast, are usually predisposed to naturalism, and enlist the supernatural only when we’ve exhausted all natural explanations. If we want to get back to the biblical world, we’ll need to get back to more supernatural explanations. The invisible world is no more an illusion than the…

To Re-Christendom the World

Posted on October 16, 2016

Last month at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge, England I lectured to the Wilberforce Academy, led by Dr. Joseph Boot, on “The Legacy of Christendom.”  The expression “legacy of Christendom” could be interpreted to mean that Christianity leaves a legacy called Christendom, which is true. Or it could mean, the legacy that Christendom itself leaves. That latter point is one I want to address. What exactly is the legacy of Christendom? Christendom is not identical to Christianity. Christendom is what a culturally dominant Christianity looks like. It’s possible to have Christianity without Christendom (that’s what we have today, in fact). But it’s not possible to have a full-fledged Christianity for long without Christendom. That is to say that the Christianity of our times is…